Many small businesses across the country continue struggling to bounce back after taking a financial hit due to the pandemic. Many business owners were faced with cutting staff, shortening hours, and some, even closing permanently.
Even as some COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in May and June, local businesses struggled to stay afloat with the loss of constant foot track, since many people are working from home.
One of those businesses is Tipico Helados, located near 21st and Q streets. Owner Jesus Mata opened the ice cream shop mid-March.
“We opened in March but had to close right away because of the pandemic,” says Mata. “We haven’t even been able to set up the chairs. We haven’t had a grand opening. We’re still open, but it’s slow and we haven’t been able to do more to grow because of the pandemic.”
Before opening a shop, Mata spent the first three years of his businesses selling ice cream out of his home.
”When I first started, I started to sell out of some small apartments. I started making the ice cream from my house, and I started selling popsicles or liters of ice cream, and would promote the business on Facebook,” he added.
Businesses like Mata’s needed help. So in order to assist Mata and other minority-owned local businesses in Omaha with the financial impact of COVID-19, Catholic Charities, Omaha Economic Development Corporation, Mutual of Omaha, and CIT Bank awarded grants to seven businesses in North and South Omaha through its collaboration called, Community Connect. The Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation also helped fund the grants.
Annie Messersmith with Mutual of Omaha, and sits on the Catholic Charities board of directors says, “A diverse, vibrant, small business environment in North and South Omaha is essential to the overall health of the Omaha community.”
For Mata, he says the three-thousand dollar grant has helped him move forward immensely.
”It helps us pay employees or buy more ingredients or merchandise because sometimes we don’t even have enough to make more products.”
He says any kind of support, especially from larger corporations in town helps him and other immigrants continue with their goals of fulfilling the American Dream of being entrepreneurs and supporting their families.
”This support gives us the spirit to move forward and not give up because there’s been some businesses that have closed and it’s tough,” said Mata. “So the more support we can get, the more necessity we have to work hard and move forward.”